Does it costs more to shop locally? One of the aims of Transition Towns is to encourage people to shop locally, to support the local economy and use less petrol.
In Shipston, it’s a known fact that many people drive 20 miles or more to shop in a big supermarket on the grounds that they save money. Two Transition Town members decided to investigate if this is so.
Jo Taylor drove to one of the major supermarkets in Stratford-upon-Avon to do her family weekly shop for two adults and two children. She made a shopping list after planning a weekly menu and taking into account items already in her cupboards and freezer. On a Thursday morning Jo drove to Stratford and spent 45 minutes in the Store. She kept to her list, buying 41 items including meat, fruit, vegetables, dairy products, pet food, cleaning materials, children’s snacks, staple groceries etc. Jo said “This was a stressful shopping experience - I spent a lot of time spent apologising to other shoppers and to members of staff who were also “shopping” on behalf of customers as the aisles in the store were so busy, although the checkout service was fast”. The cost was £61.23, and Jo spent a total of 1hr 35mins travelling from the centre of Shipston- a 20 mile round trip in the car.
The second volunteer, Helen Winnifrith, armed with the same shopping list, set off to compare the prices and shopping experience in local shops in Shipston. She said “The shopkeepers were helpful and understood that I didn’t actually want to buy all the products, but just to write down the prices. I visited both supermarkets and five independent traders. Including time to write down the prices, and allowing for paying in each shop, it took 50 minutes As usual, everyone was very friendly and helpful and I had time to chat to friends.”
Five items weren’t available, and were omitted rather than using substitutes. Prices varied across items, some cheaper in the big supermarket, some cheaper in Shipston. In some cases there were different package sizes, but cost/weight arithmetic allowed a proper comparison. Over the 41 items, the Shipston shop cost £2.75 more. Jo said, “When I take my petrol costs into account, it would actually have been cheaper and quicker to shop locally in Shipston.”
Jo and Helen realise this wasn’t a completely scientific comparison, but both tried to be impartial and were quite surprised at the result. All fruit and vegetables were cheaper in the Shipston greengrocer than in any supermarket, except for bananas, which were cheapest in one of the Shipston supermarkets. Helen said “We hope we may have done something to convince people that shopping locally can be the best value, as well as a more pleasant and less stressful experience.”
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